Celebrating the Anniversary of the Private Water Network
Over 15% of the American population relies on a private water source as their primary source of drinking water, for which there are no federal water quality requirements, and most states do not regulate private well water quality. These systems aren’t covered by the Safe Drinking Water Act and it is up to individual homeowners to manage and treat their water source. About a year ago, NEHA in partnership with the CDC launched the Private Water Network (PWN), which is a virtual platform for peer learning and information exchange for public health specialists and safety workers that serve communities with private drinking water systems. The Network serves as a way to strengthen partnerships by allowing stakeholders to (1) connect with peers, (2) share experiences, ideas, and resources, (3) access timely and relevant guidance for existing and emerging issues, and (4) build capacity to do the work more efficiently and effectively, on a singular platform to create a clearinghouse of resources and information as it relates to private drinking water sources.
About Private Water Network
The PWN is a virtual community of practice with opportunities to interact face-to-face at the NEHA Annual Educational Conference and Exhibition. PWN’s virtual platform is monitored by NEHA to provide a safe, secure, and productive virtual environment that is conducive for peer-to-peer learning and knowledge sharing. The PWN is a resource for anyone working to promote safety and public health in relation to private wells and unregulated drinking water systems.
Stakeholders from all sectors including state and local public health departments, federal agencies, industry partners, academic extensions, and national associations have engaged with the Network and have provided input into the Network structure as well as identified priorities. Membership to the PWN offers access to the virtual community platform that provides flexible communication options and easy-to-use knowledge management tools that facilitate collaboration and professional development. Features of the virtual community include a discussion forum, resources library, events calendar, member directory, and community-wide search option. Members of the Network have engaged on the virtual platform by uploading or downloading relevant materials, engaging in discussions, connecting with peers, and promoting relevant events. The Network offers are a variety of engagement opportunities highlighted below –
PWN Flash Webinar Series
The Network hosts a quarterly webinar series titled the PWN Flash Webinar Series. The PWN Flash webinars series tend to feature rapid 30-min presentations with no live Q&A during the webinar. These are designed to relay important information or provide short learning opportunities on existing and emerging issues regarding private water. So far, the PWN Flash Webinar Series has covered topics such as PFAS in private wells, corrosive water (lead and copper in private well supplies), COVID-19 and groundwater, private wells and hurricane preparedness (lessons from Louisiana), establishing private water standards, and understanding the Be Well Informed tool, etc.
Ask the Expert Discussion Forum
Since the PWN Flash Webinar Series does not include a Q&A session, we offer the Ask the Expert discussion threads on the PWN discussion forum to allow webinar attendees to engage with speakers and experts on private water issues. Each webinar is accompanied by an Ask the Expert discussion that takes place on the virtual platform.
The Private Water Network hosts more than 200 private water resources on existing and emerging groundwater contaminants such as nitrates, heavy metals, radionuclides, perfluorinated compounds, etc. In addition, the Network also serves as a clearinghouse for resources in groundwater testing, groundwater treatment, and state-specific resources.
The members of PWN can subscribe to a monthly newsletter titled the Reporting Pipeline to keep up with the latest news and updates in the private water world. The Reporting Pipeline highlights prominent news articles relevant to groundwater, private wells, and wastewater. In addition, it also features the latest events and webinars, comments from the field, announcements, and introduces new members to the larger PWN community.
The Network is trying to engage members through other activities that our members might find helpful. For instance, the Network will be hosting a series of Twitter chats to connect with its Twitter following. Also, the PWN will be starting a new webinar series focused on treatment options for private water contaminants, weekly discussion posts, and will be conducting a series of resources drives. To share your ideas on additional engagement activities, please take the survey to provide us with your thoughts. We appreciate your feedback.
The Network has about 133 members to date. The following figure shows where our members are based. The PWN is looking to get more members from the following agencies/organizations – 1) state, tribal, local, and territorial governmental public health agencies; 2) other state agency departments (environmental health, wells, permitting, natural resources, agriculture, health, ecology, land, water conservation, transportation, geology, building codes, permits, flood plains, emergency management, etc.); 3) federal agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), United States Geological Survey (USGS), Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), Army Corps of Engineers); 4) national organizations such as the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), Water Quality Association (WQA), National Sanitation Foundation International (NSF), National Groundwater Association (NGWA), Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), etc.; 5) certified laboratories; and 6) academic/extension partners. The membership to PWN is free.
In addition to celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Private Water Network (PWN), the Network is also conducting its first annual evaluation survey this month. The survey will allow PWN members to offer feedback on the effectiveness of the engagement and recruitment approaches. Furthermore, it gives PWN members an opportunity to identify next steps, future priorities for the Network, discuss ways to further expand the Network to ensure inclusion and partnership building, and determine ways that they can help to further develop the Network to create a comprehensive, useful, and sustainable resource within the private drinking water arena. If you are a PWN member, then we encourage you to take the evaluation survey. To learn how to become a PWN member, see below.
How to Join the PWN?
If you are interested in joining the PWN, you can sign up at www.PrivateWaterNetwork.org. NEHA membership is not required to be a member of the Network; however, you will need to create a my-NEHA account. Over the next year, NEHA will work towards maintaining sustainable network growth and increased member engagement for PWN. If you work with private drinking water systems, NEHA encourages you to join the PWN today! For any questions or concerns about PWN membership or participation, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Private Well Challenges Round Table Discussion: https://youtu.be/4bSg0lAqOq4
- PWN Groundwater Treatment Webinar Series: Private Well Water Treatment for Arsenic: https://youtu.be/tMxoABoFDXU
- PWN Blogpost: https://www.neha.org/membership-communities/get-involved/day-in-life/year-launch-neha-celebrates-growth-private-water
- PWN link: www.PrivateWaterNetwork.org